Playful Schools Conference 2023

Do you believe in the power of play for children's learning but lack examples of successful implementation in the classroom? Join us on March 27-29 together with experts and educators from around the world to discuss play in schools and gain useful ideas and lessons-learnt to bring play into your classrooms.

Join our free online conference for educators

The Playful Schools Conference is a 3-day conference for educators with varying levels of knowledge and experience with playful learning. The conference offers insights into the science of learning through play as well as practical tips and inspiration from practitioners around the world. Join us for free on March 27th to 29th 2023.

Sign up here

The Programme

We are happy to share the full programme with you. Dive into the magical lineup of inspiring playful schools, learning practitioners and creatives from around the world. This is also where you'll find the direct links to join plenary and all conference sessions.

Explore the programme

Meet the hosts and moderators

The Playful Schools Conference is a collaboration between the LEGO Foundation, Harvard University's Project Zero and the International School of Billund.

Benjamin Mardell

Principal investigator

Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, United States

Ben helps lead the Pedagogy of Play project and is co-author of the new book A pedagogy of play: Supporting playful learning in classrooms and schools. His new research, Playing with the Sun (and other forms of sustainable energy), involves helping young people engage in the climate crisis.

Read more about Project Zero here.

Tanvi Sethi

Programme Specialist

The LEGO Foundation, Denmark

Tanvi is supporting the LEGO Foundation in Billund with leading the Playful Schools Conference, among other projects with focus in multiple countries. She holds prior experience ranging from teaching at an underprivileged school in India, to working on research and program management across multilateral organisations and the UN system, globally. She is passionate about empathy and creativity in education and beyond.

Gabriela Salas Davila

Homeroom teacher

International School of Billund, Denmark

Gaby grew up, studied, and completed her BA in English Language Teaching in Mexico in 2003. Since then, she has worked teaching a wide range of grades in her home country, Sweden, and the USA. In 2012, she moved to Denmark with her family to work at the International School of Billund and help define the principles that currently hold the school’s learning through play philosophy. At ISB, she has taught in the Early Years and the Primary Years Program and currently works in P3 (8-9 years old). She has been actively involved with the school’s Pedagogy of Play project, in collaboration with Harvard’s Project Zero, among others.

Read more about International School of Billund here.

Bo Stjerne Thomsen

Chair of Learning through Play

The LEGO Foundation, Denmark

Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen is the Chair of Learning through Play in the LEGO Foundation. As Chair and senior expert on how children and adults learn through play, he leads the research and learning agenda of the LEGO Foundation, and provides consultation at a bilateral, regional and multilateral level to international partners and leaders. Over the past decade, Bo Stjerne led the international research agenda and dissemination of creativity and play to nurture children’s development and learning in the LEGO Foundation programmes and supporting the LEGO Group.

Bo Stjerne has published widely on Creativity, Play and Learning, most recently on the integrated role of technologies in everyday life, and the systems change needed in schools and education to achieve equitable outcomes with learning through play. He is a frequent contributor and advisor to international governments and forums like OECD, WISE, UNGA and WEF, and setting research directions for partnerships and projects worldwide, to bring attention to the quality of childhood and learning through play.  He did his master’s degree in design, architecture and engineering, and his PhD on performative technologies and learning environments. He has been a visiting scholar at the MIT Media Lab, Harvard University and Tufts University, studied research management and leadership at Copenhagen Business School and IMD in Switzerland, and is an advisor to various international research organisations

Idah Khan O'Neill

Pedagogy of Play (PoP) Research Coordinator

International School of Billund, Denmark

Born and raised in sunny Singapore, Idah Khan O’Neill now calls Denmark home, where she has been at the International School of Billund for over ten years, assuming various roles from Head of Kindergarten, PYP Coordinator and now PoP Research Coordinator.

Idah runs various playful study groups with the faculty and coordinates projects with Harvard Graduate School of Education, Project Zero and the LEGO Foundation.

When not busy being playful at work, Idah loves creating new creative projects in the kitchen or in the garage. Recently, for Chinese New Year, she baked cookies using Sichuan peppercorns. Her current project is painting a royal Copenhagen inspired chips and dip bowl.

You may have noticed that her projects mostly revolve around food as she believes food brings people together and when people are together, that is where we can all play and have fun together. There is so much we can all learn through play.

Read more about International School of Billund here.

Meet the speakers and panelists

María Adelaida López

Executive Director, LEGO Prize winner 2022

aeioTU, Colombia

María Adelaida López is a plastic artist and early childhood educator. She is passionate about the culture of childhood, art and education as engines of social development. She began her path in education as a university professor and lecturer in the year 2000. After living in the United States for almost 14 years, she returned to Colombia to serve as the Pedagogical Director of aeioTU, a role she held until 2016. With the team, she led the creation of the aeioTU educational model inspired by the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, a model that is implemented in aeioTU centers and an inspiration for thousands of educational organisations that want to improve their service and educational practice.

Camilla Uhre Fog

Head of School

International School of Billund, Denmark

Camilla Uhre Fog has been the head of the International School of Billund since April 2014. Before that, she was chair of the school board and a driving force in establishing ISB.

Read more about International School of Billund here.

Tue Rabenhøj

Head of Middle School

International School of Billund, Denmark

Tue Rabenhøj is the Head of Middle School at the International School of Billund, Denmark, where he also teaches Individuals and Societies. Tue is originally from Denmark, where he now lives after spending more than 20 years working with international education abroad, mainly in South-East Asia and Africa. Tue has been the Middle Years Coordinator (MYP) within the IB system for 20 years and is a trained workshop leader and music examiner with the IB MYP. Since joining ISB, Tue has been a Pedagogy of Play researcher, inquiring into the different paradoxes of playful learning in an academic context. How can playful learning harmonise with clearly defined learning goals and external grading criteria? How can we elevate sporadic, playful activities into a pedagogy that drives student learning and is at the heart of education? These are some of the questions that drive Tue forward in his quest to learn more about the role and power of play when facilitating learning in young adults and teenagers

Susan Lane-Outlaw

Executive Director

Metro Deaf School, United States

Dr. Susan Outlaw is the executive director at Metro Deaf School in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She has worked in the field of Deaf education for 30 years as a teacher, administrator, and in teacher preparation. She has a passion for language and literacy development, child-centred learning, and play pedagogy with students of all ages.

Rob Perrée

Team Member Agora Roermond

Wings Agora Roermond, The Netherlands

Rob Perree has been a passionate teacher for fourteen years, working to create student-oriented education within the current school system. The first ten years of his career he worked in a traditional setting, trying to inspire his colleagues to stand next to their pupils rather than in front of them. Within this traditional school, Rob created a new subject, Design & Innovation, through which he proved that pupil-centred education is possible even in a traditional setting. He has continued his career at Agora Roermond, a place where his idea of placing the student in the centre is foundational. Within this setting – with no classrooms, no timetable or methodical education - he has specialised in designing personal learning plans aimed at learning what really matters.

Maria Barbara Donnici

Manager and Researcher

Fondazione Reggio Children - Centro Loris Malaguzzi, Italy

Maria Barbara Donnici has been working for Fondazione Reggio Children since 2012 and currently coordinates the research project ”Scintillae – play and learning in the digital age”, promoted in partnership with The LEGO Foundation as well as the project ”Abitare il Paese” promoting children’s visions and ideas for the future of cities as learning spaces in collaboration with the Italian National Council of Architects. In 2019 Maria Barbara enrolled in the industrial PhD Course “Reggio Childhood Studies”, launched by the University of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Fondazione Reggio Children itself. She is researching the role of adults in promoting a playful approach to education in formal and non-formal contexts.

Ntombifuthi Chiloane

Co-founder and Assistant Pastor

Christ Word Worshippers Ministries, South Africa

Ntombifuthi Chiloane is a co-founder and assistant pastor of Christ Word Worshippers Ministries in Pretoria, South Africa, whose goal is to make education more interesting, enjoyable, and playful for all learners, including learners with barriers. Her teaching journey began at Boston College where she obtained a Diploma in Administration, after which she went on to the Tshwane University of Technology where she obtained her bachelor degree in Education, specialising in high school teaching. She currently teaches children aged 9-13 in Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Technology (NSTech). She has been involved in a number of school projects aimed at promoting and inspiring more hands-on learning.

Cheng Xueqin


Anji Childhood Education Research Center, China

Cheng Xueqin is the Director of the Anji Childhood Education Research Center, and former Director (1999-2018) of the Office of Pre-Primary Education, Anji County Department of Education, Zhejiang Province. From 1999 to the present, Cheng has been a leading global innovator in early childhood practice and policy. She is the creator and designer of the AnjiPlay Philosophy, Approach, Curriculum, and materials. She is responsible for identifying and articulating the concept of “True Play.”

Cindy Mendoza

Programs Director

Skateistan, Afghanistan

Cyndi Mendoza is a Sport for Development enthusiast and Programs Director at Skateistan, an award-winning organisation with Skate Schools and programmes for children aged 5-17 in Afghanistan, Cambodia, South Africa, and Jordan. Cyndi is passionate about equalising the playing field for women and girls. Her cross-cultural capital and lived experience give her the ability to build meaningful connections and empathy with diverse groups of people. She has an honors in Social Development and a Masters in Program Evaluation from the University of Cape Town.

Jan Christensen

Facilitation Specialist

The LEGO Foundation, Denmark

Jan Christensen is a member of the Design and Innovation team at the LEGO Foundation, where he is working with policymakers, practitioners, and researchers worldwide to bring the transformative power of play into practice to help children become creative, engaged, lifelong learners.

Jan is specialized in online facilitation and hybrid learning approaches and has been exploring different ways for reaching practitioners and caregivers online both at the LEGO Foundation and in his previous position at the University of Southern Denmark. Most recently, he has led the development of the online courses that the LEGO Foundation is now offering on the Future Learn platform

Quek Zhisheng Darren


Forest School Singapore, Singapore

Quek Zhisheng Darren is the Principal of Forest School Singapore (FSS). He has spent 15 years in the field of Education, and started the first Forest School in Singapore in 2016, after learning from and understudying from his Mentor Atsuko sensei, a Forest Kindergarten practitioner in Japan. He also earned his Forest School Level 3 Practitioner Certification through time spent in Manchester and Sheffield undergoing training and assessments.

Nehyi Quintero

Digital Director

aeioTU, Colombia

Nehyi Quintero is the Digital Director at aeioTU. She is convinced that Early Childhood Education is the key to a fair and equal start in life, and she has contributed to the development of aeioTU´s digital platform, which currently offers free content to more than 25,000 teachers and families looking to enhance their educational and parenting practices. The platform represents one of aeioTU’s strategies to fulfill its dream of expanding the impact of its educational model to reach thousands of children, families and teachers.

Jesse Coffino


Stichting True Play Foundation, China

Jesse Coffino is the CEO of Anji Education, Inc. and Chair, True Play Foundation. Jesse has authored numerous articles and essays on the history and practice of the Anji Play Approach, including “The Anji Play Ecology of Early Learning” (Childhood Education, Vol. 95, No. 1). Moreover, Jesse has lectured on the historical significance of the work of Ms. Cheng and the educators of Anji County, China at organisations and institutions including Google, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and BRAC. Jesse works closely with Ms. Cheng to translate the ideas and concepts of AnjiPlay for a global audience. Jesse also works to identify pilot programs and cultivate practice leaders in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Mario Casas


International School of Billund, Denmark

Language and music teacher from Colombia with 15 years of experience working with education at different levels.

Liam Nilsen

Educator and Designer

JoyLabz, Denmark

Liam has a background in community and interest-based learning design and facilitation, taking inspiration from Constructionism and the Reggio Emilia approach to make tools for creative learning. Liam has worked with the ALC network, the LEGO Foundation, JoyLabz, and others. He is based in Aarhus, Denmark.

Anne Van Dam

Educational Consultant

The Learning Square, The Netherlands

Anne van Dam is an educator and educational consultant with a passion for play as young children's active, complex, vivacious meaning-making process. Anne has worked as a teacher, coordinator, head of school and vice-principal at international schools in China, Singapore and Switzerland. After moving back to the Netherlands in 2015, Anne has collaborated with the PYP development team at the IB regional office in The Hague, and worked on the IB PYP review focusing on learner agency, early years, inquiry and several aspects of 'the learning community'. Anne still works as an IB workshop leader and collaborates with international schools as an independent educational consultant. From May 2019 to May 2022, Anne taught alongside 4,5 and 6 year olds at an inner city, local PYP school in her home town, The Hague. She recently became the Vice Principal and PYP coordinator of a new candidate school for the PYP.

Savhannah Schulz

PhD Fellow

Pedagogy of Play & Interacting Minds Centre, Denmark

Savhannah is a Doctoral Fellow at the Interacting Minds Centre, the Danish School of Education, and the Playtrack Research Group, and a Pedagogy of Play Research Fellow. Her interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research focuses on the role of reflection in learning and its relationship to play.

Susan MacKay

Co-founder and Co-director

Center for Playful Inquiry, United States

Susan Harris MacKay is the Co-director of the Center for Playful Inquiry, an organisation she co-founded with her colleague, Matt Karlsen, to support adult learners who are curious about Playful Inquiry - an approach to teaching and learning that prioritises conditions where imagination, creativity, and the wonder of learning thrive. Susan is the author of many articles and the book Story Workshop: New Possibilities for Young Writers (Heinemann, 2021). She also serves on the advisory board for the LEGO Foundation and Project Zero’s Pedagogy of Play project, developing tools for Inspiring Inventiveness in collaboration with colleagues at Project Zero. Currently, she is facilitating Story Workshop Studio - an online mentoring community for educators who want to strengthen their practice of Playful Inquiry.

Liz Caffrey

Math Teacher

Atrium School, United States

Liz Caffrey is a middle school math teacher, who has taught children aged 6-12 for more than twenty years. She has a passion for interdisciplinary projects advancing social justice through math. Her teaching mantra is: There is no one way. 

Natasha Haque

Humanities Teacher Coach

Aga Khan Academies, Kenya

Natasha Haque is a teacher coach working with educators across the Aga Khan Academies in Mombasa, Maputo, Hyderabad and Dhaka. Natasha qualified as a Humanities teacher in the UK in 2000 and has since worked in Kenya, Tanzania, the UAE, Bahrain and the UK across both British and IB curriculum schools. She has been an IB Middle Years Programme coordinator. She is passionate about promoting international-mindedness, capacity building and service learning. Natasha has presented and shared ideas at several IB conferences and written articles which have been published by IB Blogs, The International Educator and a chapter in a book on International Education. Natasha holds a Master’s of Science in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies and a BA (Hons) Geography degree from the London School of Economics.

David McFall

School Principal

Western Quebec School Board, Canada

David McFall is an experienced principal with the Western Quebec School Board in Quebec, Canada. With over 20 years of administrative experience, David has become skilled in identifying trends in traditional education that are impacting the teaching and learning processes.

David is a member of the International Playful School’s Network, the Canadian Playful School’s Learning Network, and his school has recently been selected as one of six “Schools of the Future” in the province of Quebec.


By collaborating with educators from around the world and rethinking traditional education, David has been designing a transferrable model of school organisation that makes learning more joyful and meaningful by integrating play and nature into the curriculum.

As schools recover from the residual trauma of the pandemic, David’s model of learning through play and nature will become more important than ever in helping change the world of education.

Chereen Rain

Primary Class Teacher and Facilitator on Building Racial Literacy

Education Scotland, Scotland

Chereen Rain has been a primary teacher in Scotland for 7 years and has recently worked with Education Scotland on the Building Racial Literacy course. She is a member of the co-design team on the Love to Read school reading scheme and the founder of the Primary Anti-Racist Teaching (PART) project.

Anna Merete Vester Jørgensen

Vice Principal

Vorbasse Skole, Denmark

She is the vice principal of the school since November 1st 2020 and she is been a teacher since 2000. From 2000 to 2014 she has worked in public schools in the Municipality of Billund and in August 2014 she joined the International School of Billund, where she was a Math teacher in the Middle Years Program.

Jean Loo


Superhero Me, Singapore

Trained as a journalist, producer and community artist, Jean’s journey into creative advocacy for inclusion started when she co-founded Superhero Me, an inclusive arts movement fostering social interaction between children of different abilities. She was instrumental in its work till October 2022, when she stepped down as director and now serves as a volunteer advisor. Her role included leading Superhero Me’s outreach, content strategy, partnerships with mainstream and special education schools and mentoring a network of creatives and art facilitators to adopt an inclusive approach in their work. Jean currently works at Rainbow Centre, a social service agency serving children and youth with disabilities.

She was previously co-lead of Early Childhood Development at Lien Foundation and ran a content creation studio with a social mission for a decade. For her commitment to inclusion through the arts, Jean was conferred the Singapore Youth Award 2018, Nanyang Outstanding Young Alumni Award 2019 and Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information Impact Award 2019. She is currently pursuing a part time Master of Social Work at the National University of Singapore and serves on the Panel of Advisers to the Youth Court.

Kgopotso Khumalo

Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist

Care for Education, South Africa

Ms. Kgopotso Tryphosa Khumalo has more than 10 years of experience leading and supporting education research initiatives in South Africa, including training, facilitation, and teaching. She currently serves as a Researcher and Initiative Lead with Care for Education, facilitating workshops as part of the Foundation Phase Initiative. She was chosen as one of two South African Researchers for the Pedagogy of Play Research, a project by Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

She also serves as an online facilitator for their Pedagogy of Play Online Course. She has previously served as Academic Literacies Coordinator for the Vaal University of Technology in South Africa where she developed faculty-specific academic literacy programs with a key focus on reading and writing within the disciplines. She performed benchmarking across different South African institutions of higher learning in this role. Earlier in her career, she served as a Lecturer at the University of Johannesburg. Ms. Khumalo holds a Masters in Industrial Sociology from the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. She is currently completing a Ph.D. in Education at Rhodes University.

Pablo Jaramillo Quintero


Alianza Educativa, Colombia

Pablo is the CEO of Alianza Educativa, a network of 11 charter schools that serves 11,800 underprivileged students in Bogotá. Prior to Alianza Educativa, Pablo served as Deputy Minister of K-12 Education of Colombia. He is one of the co-founders and former CEO of Enseña por Colombia, a partner of the Teach for All Network that has recruited more than 300 Colombian leaders to teach in underprivileged regions in the country. He is also the co-founder and former CEO of Volunteers Colombia, a nonprofit that created one of the biggest English as a Second Language initiatives in the country by bringing more than 1,500 native speakers to serve as co-teachers in public and private schools. Pablo has a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, a degree in Pedagogy and Curriculum from Universidad de Los Andes, and a B.A. and M.A. in Economics from LMU Munich University in Germany.

Rob Houben

Founder & Program Manager Wings Agora Roermond

Wings Agora Roermond, The Netherlands

Rob is the Program Manager at Agora, a public secondary school without classes, timetables and age groups. With his company, he shares his experience as an educational leader, change maker, change creator and public speaker with schools and organisations around the world.

Carol Tang

Futurology Manager

The LEGO Group, Denmark

Carol is currently the Lead Design Futurist in the Creative Play Lab of The LEGO Group. Her key focus is designing the way we imagine and design play – empowering adults to explore wider possibilities of innovation playfully and creatively, hence increasing the odds of meaningful products and services delivered to our generations to come.

She is energized by creative challenges and patterns in the world and human beings. She traveled around the world to work with passionate change-makers, sharpened her innovation skills across borders & industries – from the Tropic to the Arctic, from startups to enterprises.

Morten P. Meldal


University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Morten Meldal is a Professor and head of Center for Evolutionary Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry, University of Copenhagen, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2022. Professor Morten Meldal has a degree in engineering and a technical Ph.D. degree in the synthetic chemistry of oligosaccharides. The Meldal-group has published more than 340 publications and reviews in international journals and filed 23 patents describing work in many different areas of organic and bioorganic chemistry. The CECB research group combines technology and research across many scientific disciplines, including chemistry, biology and material sciences.

Rohan Chakravarty

Cartoonist and Illustrator, India

Rohan Chakravarty is a cartoonist, illustrator and the creator of Green Humour, a series of cartoons about wildlife and conservation. Green Humour is the first series of comics from India to be distributed internationally by a major syndicate (Universal Press’ ‘Gocomics’), and appears periodically in wildlife magazines and newspapers. Chakravarty collaborates with organizations working on wildlife conservation to produce illustrated awareness material, and has authored five books.

Mauro Giacomazzi

Technical Adviser

Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education

Mauro Giacomazzi is a Technical Adviser, Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education and Focal Point Education, AVSI Foundation (PhD in Education). He has contributed to the growth of various local education institutions in East Africa for the past 16 years. Mauro has a rich experience in implementing programs for improving teachers’ competencies in enhancing students’ socio-emotional and learning skills.

Frequently Asked Questions

We've prepared answers to the most common questions for you below. If you still have questions or need help please reach out to [email protected] for questions and support. During the conference, we recommend using the live chat or reaching out through the LEGO Foundation’s social media channels for fastest support. You can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Is it necessary to download any software to attend the conference?
Is a web camera or microphone required?
Why is there a programme time slot 1 and time slot 2?
Is the programme repeated at time slot 2?
How do I join the conference on live stream?
How do I join a workshop?
Can I join more than one workshop?
The workshop I wanted to join got cancelled, what do I do?
The MS Teams call for the workshop doesn't work
The MS Teams call for the plenary doesn't work
How do I join the reflection groups?
Is the conference recorded?
How do I activate auto-generated subtitles?
How do I participate in the Q&A?
Where can I learn more about Learning Through Play?